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CEDU Educational Services Inc
"See Yourself As You Are and Do Something About It"
 United States
TypePrivate therapeutic boarding schools
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CEDU Educational Services Inc
"See Yourself As You Are and Do Something About It"
 United States
TypePrivate therapeutic boarding schools

CEDU Educational Services, Inc., known simply as CEDU (pronounced see-doo), was founded in 1967 by Mel Wasserman and his wife Brigitta. The company owned and operated several therapeutic boarding schools and behavior modification programs in California and Idaho.



Their motto says: "See yourself as you are and do something about it", however some claim that to be a backronym with the name actually being an acronym for Chuck E. Dederich University after the founder of Synanon. Before starting CEDU, Wasserman had sponsored teenagers into Synanon. CEDU was started in 1967, when Wasserman bought property in Running Springs, California, east of Los Angeles. Some claim that he actually began his work with teens in 1965, when he (at that time running a furniture store) started to take restless youth into his household.

The original CEDU High School website describes itself:

CEDU High is an emotional growth boarding school for adolescents who exhibit behavioral and learning difficulties. The curriculum has three cornerstones: The original CEDU Emotional Growth program; college preparatory academics; and an outstanding outdoor adventure program. Woven through this triangle is an enriching theme of visual and performing arts. CEDU High School is the original emotional growth boarding school. Since 1967, it has worked with teens and families to redirect negative behavior, teach vital life skills, create academic success, and reunite families.[1]

Original CEDU period (1967–1985)

The average time a student spent at a CEDU school was 2½ years. The school year was year-round. The original CEDU program did not believe in use of psychological medicine. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1pm to 5pm (sometimes 6pm) students were required to attend group therapy sessions called Raps. In this CEDU period, Raps were highly confrontational, at any given moment in a Rap there were could be between 1 to 15 students screaming at other students or, with their head pointed towards the floor, screaming at their own 'emotional issues' and/or crying uncontrollably.

Expansion (1982–1990)

In 1982, a small group of students and staff, including founding headmaster Dan Earle, left the Running Springs campus for Bonners Ferry, Idaho to open Rocky Mountain Academy (RMA). RMA's curriculum and philosophy were identical to the original school, CEDU Running Springs. On rare occasions staff and students were transferred between schools. The staff generally transferred campuses for promotions, students were transferred because the staff felt a "fresh start" was the best (and usually last) option for the student.[2][3][4] Rocky Mountain Academy was one of the largest employers in Boundary County during the period, diversifying its timber and agriculture economy.[5]

Around 1990 the facilities began to accept that some of the teenagers could need medications.

CEDU Education - Brown Schools (1998–2005)

CEDU Education was sold to Brown Schools while it was at its peak in the market; all the schools were full and everything was going well. Two years into its ownership by Brown Schools, the staff turnover was extremely high, no one with any time or stability in the company was left, and CEDU Education went backwards.[6] Former employees watched helplessly as the Brown Schools made management decision after management decision inconsistent with the CEDU philosophy of education and inconsistent with what was effective in helping struggling teens.[7]

1967CEDU High SchoolRunning Springs, California2005Campus sold to Chabad of Los Angeles[4]
1982Rocky Mountain AcademyBonner's Ferry, Idaho2005Property purchased by Universal Health Services[4]
1992CEDU Middle SchoolRunning Springs, California2005Campus sold to Chabad of Los Angeles[4]
1993Boulder Creek AcademyBonner's Ferry, Idaho2005Re-opened by Universal Health Services[8]
1994Northwest AcademyNaples, Idaho2005Re-opened by Universal Health Services[8]
1994Ascent Wilderness ProgramNaples, Idaho2005Re-opened by Universal Health Services[8]
Milestones Transitional Program2005property in litigation[4]


Brown Schools operated 11 boarding schools and educational facilities in California, Idaho, Texas, Vermont, and Florida. Facilities in Austin, Texas and San Marcos, Texas were sold to Psychiatric Solutions Inc. in 2003.[9] CEDU closed in early 2005 due to financial problems.[9][10] Several CEDU employees reported to Lake Arrowhead Mountain News, however, that pending litigation against CEDU for abuse and violation of rights as well as citations against the schools contributed to the downfall.[11] In March, 2005 Brown Schools declared bankruptcy, in part because of legal costs related to lawsuits filed by the families of several former students. The same year, Universal Health Services bid $13.5 million for the Brown School properties in bankruptcy.[12]

Idaho Educational Services

Universal Health Services Inc.,[13] a public company focused on hospitals and behavioral health centers, subsequently reopened three of the former CEDU facilities: Ascent, Boulder Creek (located on the former Rocky Mountain Academy property) and Northwest Academy. These operate under the new name of Idaho Educational Services. Each program is overseen by individual directors.[14]


The history of CEDU is largely the history of the development of parent-choice, private-pay residential programs. A significant number of the schools in the Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools industry were developed or strongly influenced by people who were originally inspired by their CEDU experience.[15]

In 1984 the Cascade School was founded in Whitmore, California by Michael Allgood a student of Mel Wasserman along with ex-Cedu staff and students utilizing the exact propheet model of CEDU.[citation needed]

Program structure

Ideological and therapeutic underpinnings

Lon Woodbury, former admissions director at CEDU and current independent education consultant had this to say about the origins of the program. "Mel Wasserman was influenced by Synanon, and so used the confrontation model watered down quite a bit in the founding in CEDU." [16]

Group sessions at CEDU, referred to as Raps, were inspired by Synanon's The Game. Other influences in CEDU's methodologies can be traced to Large Group Awareness Training seminars such as Erhard Seminars Training and Lifespring. A variation of Lifespring was/is, in fact, used as the last workshop in the CEDU curriculum.[attribution needed]

There are also many striking similarities in CEDU therapy to that of Primal Therapy and Bioenergetic Analysis, but it is at this point unable to be proven definitively as to whether Mel Wasserman actually borrowed directly from these practices.[attribution needed]

Students experienced several workshops throughout their stay, these are referred to as "Propheets", in which the general theme for the propheet is based loosely on the writings from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. The propheet evolved out of all night Rap sessions by Wasserman in the late 1960s. Examples of this is Gibran's passage about Joy and Sorrow, which is used in the Truth Propheet, or his prose about children, which was used for the Children's propheet. Wasserman was quoted as stating that a propheet was to "Take the words of the Prophet and put feet to them." Propheets lasted a full 20–24 hours. It was soon found that certain questions had to be addressed before there could be meaningful work on other areas. It rapidly evolved into nine Propheets, taken in sequence by all students, each one addressing different issues any child must resolve in order to become a mature, successful adult. For example, a child has to have at least some handle on what the truth is about themselves before anything else can even be addressed. The first Propheet consequently is the Truth Propheet. Later is the Values Propheet where each child explores the basic values he or she is living by, and is helped to decide if those values make any sense. Other Propheets help them look at what they are really doing in creating relationships, help them ask what happened to the Dreams they once held, and explore and understand the things they do to undermine success and happiness. Each one helps them to better understand that area of their life, and to make changes when and where appropriate. Some workshops were multi-day events, the first one lasting three days, and the second one, based on Lifespring lasting six.[attribution needed]

The school's philosophy was to take high risk self-destructive teens and change the way that they viewed themselves and to change the destructive behavior they exhibited towards themselves and others. The staff provided a different curriculum which focused on the positives of some of our greatest heroes including Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Kahil Gibran as well as Martin Luther King Jr. and other intelligent, humane leaders of the world. This was used to help the students to understand that sometimes peace is more potent than violence in dealing with conflict. While there are many students who had a difficult time in the later years of the school, there are those who the program benefited and enriched.

Another questionable aspect of the group raps was the expectation by staff that students were to reveal a wide variety of previous acts, such as sexual experiences, criminal activities and anything deemed by the staff to be emotionally traumatizing. Most of these revelations were done in very public settings with peers and staff often demoralizing students for these very confessions. The therapeutic premise was "break the student down, then after emotionally dealing with the issue, prop the student back up". The problem is that students began to act the way they were expected to when confronted and learned to cry and act out emotionally, with better performances reaping greater rewards. Many students have admitted to making up past events so as to have a past that was comparable to other students, who were "growing" through their past traumas through revelation.[attribution needed]

Propheets & Experiences

1The Truth PropheetPassages pertaining to:
"Joy and Sorrow"
from Khalil Gibran's The Prophet
"The truth shall set you free."

"What is your truth?" examples are: sparkle, beautiful, loving
"What is your lie?" examples are: weak, slut, liar
"You are what you do, not what you say you do."
The concept of the pendulum: "To the degree that you feel your sorrow, to that same degree you shall feel your joy"
The concept of the chrome ball: You where once a beautiful chrome ball which your behaviors (the lie about you) have tarnished.

This was a 24 hour experience.

Its main feature: an all night rap, in which older students came into the propheet who had functioned as 'big brothers or big sisters' to the younger students when they entered the school. They aid the staff by bringing up known negative behaviors of their friends. The rap focused on attach tactics to break the student down. Each student had a card taped to his/her chest with a negative word written on it. That was their lie, they must live with, for the evening.

The main song of this propheet, which was featured on a scroll given to the student by an older student when leaving the propheet is: "Just the Way You Are" by Billy Joel. Songs were often played on repeat for effect.

2The Children's PropheetPassages pertaining to:
"Speak to us of Children"
from Khalil Gibran's The Prophet
"Children of the Universe, Children One and All."

"A child that lives with truth learns what justice is."
"Who is your inner child?" examples are names such as pumpkin or sweet pea. Each student identified the nickname they were called when they were young.

This is a 24 hour experience.

Its main feature: a birthday party at the end of the propheet in which each student is given a bagged lunch and cupcake and encouraged to snuggle smush and act as childlike as possible.

The main song of this propheet, which is featured on a scroll given to the student by an older student when leaving the propheet was often "Child for a Day" by Cat Stevens.

3The Brothers Keeper Propheet
4The Discover Expedition
5The I Want To Live Propheet
6The Values PropheetGuided imageryStudents are required to have a discussion about what makes humans different with respect to other creatures.
7The Wilderness Challenge Expedition
8The Stretch Night
9The Imagine PropheetDeals with the inner child concept and regression similar to the children's propheet.
The John Lennon song "Imagine" is used throughout
10The I and Me Workshop
(3 Day)
Guided imagery
11The Summit Workshop
(7 Day)
Mel Wasserman purchased the rights to use the Lifespring workshop, in addition to adding his own exercises.

Daily life

Daily life at CEDU was rigidly structured, however, depending on the era, it could differ in nature of activities (i.e. such as what days of the week raps were held), or what the phase/level system entailed. The manner of punitive measures also changed greatly over the course of the CEDU lifespan. (See links to lawsuits below.)[attribution needed]

One template of the daily structure, from the 1980s/1990s era, normally consisted of some form of manual labor in the morning, a four hour rap in the afternoon, followed by one hour dorm time, dinner, and then spending "social" time with other students in the evening. The days that did not have raps in the afternoon usually substituted those hours with some form of physical exercise or team sport.[attribution needed]

Academic life

Academic life changed over the period of CEDU's lifespan. At one point, it was nonexistent, and students earned school credits for the activities they were forced to endure. (For example, one rap earned you a credit in "interpersonal dynamic workshops".) In the late 80s, the upper school students' daily labor (which normally consisted of supporting younger students at their family's/team's/group's/ work site) was replaced with academic classes. Many detainees did not graduate with high school diplomas and had to return to high school after attending one of the CEDU schools.[citation needed]

The Academics were based on a trimester schedule with an ACW (Alternate Curriculum Week) at the culmination of each. The classes themselves were as small as the student body and enough work to keep the students occupied but not enough to learn any particular topic. This was prescribed as a means to keep the students focused on their emotional growth.[citation needed]

Many of the counselors and teachers were not qualified to teach in an academic environment. Many students have said they learned little about how to function in the academic arena and found themselves at an educational level below their peers after leaving the school. The almost cult-like focus on dealing with emotional issues and finding the inner child left little time for academic pursuits, and academic excellence was not recognized or even desired.[citation needed]

Celebrity and CEDU

The first facility was located in California — not far from Hollywood. The busy life of the persons in the entertainment industry meant that some of the known celebrities had less time for their children and outsourced the upbringing to CEDU. In relationship with the closure of the facility as local newspapers stated:[17]

Tuition at CEDU schools was about $5,700 a month. Actress Roseanne Barr and broadcaster Barbara Walters are among the rich and famous who have sent their children to the academies, according to a Spokesman-Review report in 1998.

Paris Hilton attended the running springs school for some months prior to attending Provo Canyon School. When she turned 18 she left as an adult.[1]

Joe Francis, manager of Girls Gone Wild attended CEDU before attending the University of Southern California. His parents were heavily involved in Herbalife. Joe Francis also attended Rocky Mountain Academy in Idaho in 1990.

Herbalife founder Mark Hughes[18] was a well known name during the early years of CEDU.

In the news

1993: A 17-year-old boy disappeared from the Campus. He was never found.[19]

1994: A 14-year-old boy disappeared from the Campus. The family believes that he was abducted. He has not been found.[20]

July 1994 - Jon A. committed suicide in one of the dormitories of lower Camelot at Rocky Mountain Academy.[21]

1997 - Five persons were injured in a riot at Northwest Academy.[22]

2002 - CEDU Educational Services, Inc. pays settlement to former client on charges of abuse.[22]

2004 - Parents search for their son who ran away from CEDU Running Springs.[23]

2009 - A police investigation is conducted into the unsupervised presence of the convicted killer James Lee Crummel on the CEDU Running Springs Campus in connection with the two disappearances in 1990s.[24]

2012 - The first book about CEDU is published by Waxlight Press. The Discarded Ones:A Novel Based on a True Story by James Tipper marks the first detailed account of life at the school in literature.[25]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Paris: Troubled Teen In Love With Her Reflection, Ron Mwangaguhunga, blogger on The Corsair quoting an article inThe National Enquirer.
  2. ^ http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/TributeToMelWassermanES_020501.shtml
  3. ^ a b Ditz, Liz. CEDU timeline, I Speak of Dreams blog
  4. ^ a b c d e http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2005/08/cedu_properties.html
  5. ^ http://www.spokesmanreview.com/tools/story_pf.asp?ID=61576
  6. ^ http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/article_5144.shtml
  7. ^ http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/article_5123.shtml
  8. ^ a b c http://www.uhsinc.com/hospitals.php?type=behavioral
  9. ^ a b CEDU Closing
  10. ^ CEDU Education Announces Closure of Rocky Mountain Academy, Press Release brought on strugglingteens.com, the homepage of the industry marketing firm
  11. ^ CEDU School Declares Bankruptcy, Lake Arrowhead Mountain News, 31 March 2005.
  12. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/17/business/17teen.html
  13. ^ http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/news/business/companies/universal-health-services-inc/index.html
  14. ^ http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/article_5203.shtml
  15. ^ http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/article_5922.shtml
  16. ^ Chu, Keith. Ever unconventional, long controversial, bendbulletin.com. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  17. ^ Hansen, Dan and Drumheller, Susan. CEDU shutting down, Spokesman Review, 25 March 2005.
  18. ^ Herbalife information
  19. ^ John Christopher Inman at The Charley Project
  20. ^ Blake Wade Pursley at The Charley Project
  21. ^ Spokesman-Review excerpt
  22. ^ a b CEDU Sued for Abuse and Fraud, International Survivors Action Committee
  23. ^ Father endures 2-month search for missing son, International Survivors Action Committee
  24. ^ Wyatt, Chuck. "Death Row Serial Molester Connected to CEDU", Apenhorn News, 13 November 2009.
  25. ^ Publisher's product description excerpt

External links